14 endangered African wild dogs were translocated from South Africa to Malawi. Photo Casey Pratt/Love Africa Marketing
14 endangered African wild dogs were translocated from South Africa to Malawi. Photo Casey Pratt/Love Africa Marketing

14 African wild dogs, southern Africa’s most endangered carnivore, translocated from SA to Malawi

By Karen Singh Time of article published Aug 19, 2021

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DURBAN: Fourteen African wild dogs were translocated from South Africa to Malawi recently in what the Wildlife ACT described as a historically significant occasion for the conservation of southern Africa’s most endangered carnivore.

The translocation was carried out through a collaboration between the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and African Parks who manage Liwonde and Majete protected areas in partnership with Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife.

The organisations received support from the Wildlife ACT, among others.

Three females from Somkhanda Community Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal formed part of the 14 wild dogs that were translocated to Malawi.

The young adult females, in prime dispersal age, were moved from an established pack of 11.

The movement of the 2019 pack into Somkhanda and, subsequently, the three females to Malawi form part of the Wild Dog Range Expansion Project, which is guided by the SA Wild Dog Advisory Group and the KwaZulu-Natal Wild Dog Management Group.

“Through this association of conservation authorities and leading conservation organisations, the South African Wild Dog population (outside the Kruger National Park) is managed as a single meta-population, using reintroductions and relocations to simulate natural processes of dispersal, pack formation and colonisation of new areas,” said the organisation.

It said that helped prevent overpopulation in smaller reserves and maintain genetic diversity.

“These strategic management interventions have resulted in a healthy KZN population which is contributing significantly to Wild Dog conservation, while Somkhanda’s population has now successfully contributed to packs in Zululand, Mozambique and Malawi,” said the organisation.

Somkhanda is the product of a successful land claim by the Gumbi community, who decided to preserve the natural landscape under conservation.

“A 12 500ha reserve is now an admirable example of a community which values the protection and conservation of South Africa’s natural habitat as a core to sustainable economic development,”said the Wildlife ACT.

The organisation said that in October 2019, as part of this range expansion strategy, Somkhanda welcomed six new African wild dogs, whose pups made up the founding population on Liwonde National Park.

Fana Gumbi, from the Emvokweni Community Trust said: “We are very proud to be a part of this bigger conservation picture, we hope to leave this legacy for our children.''

Pippa Orpen, of Wildlife ACT Somkhanda, said it took months of groundwork to prepare for this operation.

“This operation resulted in a successful capture and relocation to the Somkhanda holding boma and the subsequent move to Malawi and we are very proud of what has been achieved,” said Orpen.

“It’s immensely rewarding and a great source of pride knowing that the countless hours and invaluable support we have provided through relocations, emergency response, education and the efficient monitoring has allowed Wildlife ACT to be a key contributor to African Wild Dog conservation,” said Chris Kelly, Wildlife ACT’s co-founder and director of species conservation.

The Endangered Wildlife Trust said that while housed in the holding boma over the next several weeks, they would be observed by the teams on the ground as they adjusted to the new conditions, including climate and parasite loads, before being released into the wider park areas.

“Each pack has been fitted with a mix of satellite and radio collars to facilitate the continual monitoring of their location and habitat use and ensure their long-term protection in the parks,” said the trust

Key threats to which have significantly impacted wild dog numbers across Africa:

  • Habitat loss and fragmentation.
  • Direct and indirect persecution.
  • Diseases.
  • Competition with other predators.

The organisation said the key to the survival of Africa’s endangered species was ensuring that they were reintroduced into well-managed protected areas where they could safely roam and strengthen in number.

Wildlife ACT has helped monitor and manage the Wild Dog population on Somkhanda since they were first reintroduced in 2012. The first pack was introduced by Wildlands, the ECT, Wildlife ACT, the EWT, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the Global Nature Fund.

14 endangered African wild dogs were translocated from South Africa to Malawi. Photo Casey Pratt/Love Africa Marketing

THE MERCURY

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